How To Think About Poker Ranges Like a Pro
Do you know how to think about poker ranges?
In this article, I will take you step-by-step through the very same process responsible for my poker success.
First things first, let’s start by defining a poker range:
A range is a combination of hands a player might have at a given time.
Thinking about what players have in the form of a range is valuable because it allows you to think about all of the possibilities of a hand.
We use poker hand grids to visualize ranges.
This is a hand grid. These are all the possible hands you could be dealt in No-Limit Holdem. The “o” indicates it is an offsuit hand, for instance, 6♣ 5♥ (six of clubs & five of hearts) while the s indicates a suited hand, like A♥ T♥ (Ace of hearts & Ten of hearts).
We use this grid as a graphical representation of a range. We select the hands we want to include so it is a seamless process to know what a player can have. Let’s say for instance; we are interested in looking at a range of queens, kings, aces, and all ace-king hands. It is written as follows: QQ+, AKs, AKo. It is visually represented as:
A range starts preflop, where someone is dealt one of the seventy-eight different offsuit hands, one of the seventy-eight different suited hands, or one of the thirteen pairs.
Once a player decides to put money into the pot they’ve revealed some amount of information about their range.
For instance, let’s say we think someone is playing 14% of hands from UTG. What might that range look like?
By simply typing in 14% Equilab will give us what it thinks the top 14% of all hands are.
Which visually is:
And is written as [77+,A7s+,K9s+,QTs+,JTs,ATo+,KJo+,QJo]
We may however disagree with the hands that Equilab chooses and think that a player values hands differently. In which case we can make the range to fit the way we actually think someone is playing:
A range is also very powerful postflop when trying to determine the value of your hand vs an opponent’s range. Let’s say this player raises UTG and we call OTB with 88. The flop is T♣ 6♦ 4♠, we face a flop cbet and decide to call. What are potentially good turns for us? Let’s start with hands we think he bets the flop with:
Here we can see that he is betting any hand that is a pair of tens, or better than a pair of tens, two straight draws [98s, 87s, both of which are unlikely holdings given our hand of 88], and many hands with two overcards. Overcards are popular and likely cbets because even if you had top pair, a very strong hand in NLH, the player with overcards has a possibility to make the best hand. In this situation we can see that any [A, K, Q, J] would favor the UTG players range as he would have just made a very strong hand or at the very least still has two overs and now has a straight draw, whereas any card [T,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2] is favorable for our range as he has almost never improved and we have some of the time.
Using ranges to think about poker hands and situations is the professional approach to NLH. Moving away from trying to put your opponent on a singular hand and recognizing that there are several possible holdings helps you understand your opponents play and what the best decision is for your hand and range.